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Most of Indian Americans support Biden, Kamala

October 15, 2020 00:00:00

NEW YORK, Oct 14 (New York Times): A large majority of Indian Americans plan to cast ballots for the Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen Kamala Harris, according to a survey released Wednesday, despite elaborate overtures by the Trump White House to win their support.

The survey, by the polling firm YouGov, found that 72% of Indian American voters planned to vote for Biden, with just 22% planning to go for President Donald Trump.

While Indian Americans hold a wide variety of political views, the presence on the Democratic ticket of Harris, whose mother immigrated from Chennai, India, has had a galvanizing effect on a voting bloc that could help Biden in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan.

Their potential impact on the presidential election highlights the growing importance of Indian Americans in US politics: As the second-largest immigrant group in the country, Indian Americans are gaining influence, making political donations, vocally supporting candidates and causes and, most notably, running for office, from the school board to Congress.

"We have arrived," said Ramesh Kapur, a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Kapur, 72, who owns a gas processing and distributing company in Medford, Massachusetts, and supported Harris' 2016 Senate race and her run for the 2020 presidential nomination, said that Indian Americans donated $3.3 million to the Biden Victory Fund at a single fundraising event he organised in September.

But Harris isn't the only reason many Indian Americans support the Democratic ticket this year, Kapur said. They are also turned off by the president's frequent attacks on immigrants and people of colour, despite standing to gain from Trump's economic policies.

"Even though they are supposedly saving taxes, to the Indian American community, when you get the president of the United States saying to an elected official, 'Go home,' that scares the hell out of us," he said, referring to Trump's tweet in July 2019 about a group of four minority congresswomen.

While the approximately 2 million Indian American voters comprise less than 1% of the electorate, they are voters who both parties seek to attract. The larger Indian American population is twice as rich as the rest of the country as a whole, and two times as likely to hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

And at the rate the community is growing - doubling in size every decade since the 1980s - they represent an increasingly formidable force in US politics.

The apparently wide support among Indian Americans for Biden comes despite high-profile efforts by Trump and the Republicans to win their votes.

A year ago, Trump drew 50,000 people to a rally in Houston with India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, an event that organisers called "Howdy, Modi."

The prime minister, a right-wing populist whose bellicose views on two of India's rivals, Pakistan and China, helped win his party a landslide reelection in 2019, and who has generally received support from the Indian diaspora, lauded Trump's name as "familiar to every person on the planet."

He returned the favour in February with an even larger spectacle for Trump in India.

The rallies did win Trump some support, said MR Rangaswami, the founder of Indiaspora, a nonpartisan group that promotes the interests of Indians in the United States.

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